Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Herstory (To be confused with history)

I hail from a long line of Italians located in the hollers of Western Pennsylvania. Fombell, Pennsylvania, to be exact. I grew up on a rental property of a working farm. There were three houses, including the main house where the owners lived. They had horses, cows, billy goats, cats, and a pair of the meanest Doberman Pinchers I have ever come into contact with. The family that lived in the other rental house had a daughter a few years older than I with a disposition equal to that of the dobermans. She was, by far, the meanest girl I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.
Our rental home was furthest from the mainhouse, over the hill and a small pasture length's away from the barn. I could see exactly two houses from my front porch, but even when squinting, I couldn't see the people who lived in there. The cars looked like matchbook cars and the houses something one of my cousins had in a lego set. I often imagined helmet hair on those people, much like the ones in those there lego sets.
On three sides of our house, we had pasture. Three seperate ones. Fenced with electric fencing and barbed wire. Those ornary cows and horses seemed to get out a lot. It was pure entertainment watching our landlord's hunky son and his friends try to rally up those resistant critters. The other side was our road. For years, I only new it as RR#1, but it's proper name is Celia Road - now named Celia Drive. Directly across the fence was our mailbox, followed by what seemed a neverending corn field. On the other side of the corn field was a railroad track followed by the good ol' Connoquennessing Creek. (That's pronounced "Connie kwi nessing crik" for you city folk.)
Shortly after passing our house, our road made a ninety degree bend. On that bend was a dirty road we used to call the Narrows. The Narrows was, well, a narrow road. Only people who knew the road well and the occassional lost folk ever ventured on the road. It was a windy road that took one through an exhilirating adventure through the wilderness. On one side of us we'd have a leaking wall of rock and the other an unguarded dropoff to sudden doom. It was exhilirating because one never new if they were really going to make it out of there. Well, just about everyone but us. We had an orange Ford Fiesta. That sucker could fit anywhere. The Narrows followed the Connoquennessing in all its turns, crossing the railroad tracks here and there. It passed a Girl Scout Camp, where I attended many, many day camps in my time. The road came out onto a paved road a couple of miles away. Follow that paved road a few feet and you'd have the Fombell General Store. It was here that I made the discovery of penny candy. Swedish fish, fire balls, Pixie Sticks, gummie worms and bears, jaw breakers, and much, much more sugary heaven to be piled into my teeny tiny paper bag and costing less than my entire week's allowance. There was, afterall, a God - that guy the grown-ups talked about at the weekly social gathering we called, Church.
I left out one very important place!! I can't believe it. There was this place we locals called, "The Wheely Jumps." To people who may not know what the place was, or that it even had a name, it was where the neighborhood boys would come to jump their dirt bikes. It was a succession of hills and mounds made by dirt and other junk. It was where tractors and various other equipment went to die. I'm pretty sure a tetnus shot was the only requirement to get into this place. I would watch from the corner of our yard as the dreamy boys, several years my senior, would take dares and tumble their loud bikes down the largest of those hills. Those hills seemed huge to my tiny eyes. It's also where my father, who later in life became a gunsmith, sited in his guns, customer guns, and we all took part in target practice. Target practice wasn't what you see on the television. No fancy bullseyes, those were reserved for Turkey Shoots. No, these were beer cans, pop cans, and clay pigeons.
Our yard was very large. We had a gravel driveway we drove up and a big oak tree that shaded it. At the end of our driveway was a rusted old barrel with holes in it. We burned our paper trash there. My mom had a clothesline out back. And our beagles had their dogboxes close by. My dad made me a sandbox with my name carved into the seats. We had a huge garden and a rosebush my mother often cussed at located at the end of our drive. In the back of the house, we had a grapevine where I'd steal enough grapes to give me a short case of diarrhea. My cousins and I used to fling them at each other making large, purple stains on our clothing which resulted in our parents shaking their heads at us.
Our house had two porches, but we only used one. The bathroom was downstairs, which at the time, I thought was just weird. WHO has a bathroom downstairs? Apparently, just us. (It was later learned that the bathroom was an afterthought as the house was built when outhouses were still prim and proper.) We had a living room, kitchen, and bathroom downstairs. Two bedrooms and a large hallway area upstairs. And we had a dark, creepy, cluttered, cobweb covered basement. Half of it would flood during rain and snow meltoffs. I always dreaded going down there. It was scarey and pitch black.
I never had a door on my room, just an orange lace curtain in the doorway. Whomever lived in the house before us must not have believed in privacy. I never figured out if the curtain was so orange from age or dye. My parents' room was located at the back (or front depending upon how you looked at it) of the house. There was a long hallway to get to. It had a hook lock on the top of the door, which I never understood. Was it intended to keep someone in? Or out? At any rate, it had a bright yellow door. Everytime I was allowed to go inside (after knocking and stating my business of course), I found green linolium and a beautiful canopy bed. His and her closets, a dresser, a chest of drawers, a sewing table and machine, the dog's bed, and some sort of night stand. It was the largest and most beautiful room in the house. 
Our kitchen was pretty primitive by today's standards. We had a green propane stove with matching refridgerator and the green faux wood paneling that was so popular back then. We had a heavy wooden table and a deep freezer. (Both of which was later claimed by my father's gunsmithing business' paperwork.) We didn't have a dishwasher, unless of course, you counted myself. We had poorly painted orangish-brownish-greenish vomit colored cabinets to the right of the sink that held our dishes. On the left we had a red counter that I think was supposed to mimic marble. We also had cupboards underneath the counter made of wood. One double cupboard for spices and what not and one for pans. 
We had an Irish Setter that was my partner in crime. I dressed her in my blankets. She was a wizard one day and a matron the next. Rusty was the sort of dog that would let me ride her as a pony if that's what I wanted. She was trained as a bird dog, a working companion of my father's. She was a gentle soul who never breathed my secrets. She loved me unconditionally and waited by my side faithfully. We also had three beagles who were hunting dogs as well. But, you know, I never quite knew what they hunted exactly. Rabbit? Perhaps? One time I ran away, taking our oldest beagle, Squirt with me. I packed my hobo stick full of I can't remember what, took the leash and down the road I went. Squirt and me, we were buddies. We were going to start a new life together, just him and I. After breathing a sigh of relief that I successfully traveled far enough to be out of eyesight of my home, I started with a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and a sick feeling in my gut. Along came my father's puttering yellow Dotson truck. He rolled up beside me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was running away. Far away. Away from him, mom and everyone else. He told me to get in the truck. Now, I knew better than to disobey my father. If I had refused to get in the truck with him, I would have had my hide tanned with the leather belt he kept in the basement hallway. It had two purposes: 1. Sharpening his hunting knives and 2. Beating my ass. Reluctanty, Squirt and I got into the rusted old truck. My father turned us around and we headed back to our house. Funny, it took me all morning to make it as far as I had gotten, but it was only a two minute or so truckride back home. Damn, the luck! The only thing he said to me was that the next time I ran away, not to take his dog. I expected to hear something along the lines of we missed and love you, Bobbi Lee. Please don't run away from us again. All I got was that single sentence, "don't take the dog." Hmph.

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